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What is 'authenticity?': Foreigners, KFC and 'authentic' Chinese food

(People's Daily Online)    17:26, May 31, 2017

Photo from Guancha.cn

Most people spent last weekend's Dragon Boat Festival enjoying sticky rice dumplings and staying informed via WeChat Moments. Indeed, almost every Chinese festival is associated with food and online jokes. For example: a foreigner eats a rice dumpling...along with its wrapping, under the “guidance” of a Chinese jokester.

Chinese food undoubtedly enjoys worldwide popularity. The U.S. alone has around 40,000 Chinese restaurants, even more than the sum of McDonald's outlets and KFCs. Now, business in China has become a main source of profit for KFC, which has started selling soy bean milk, Chinese-style breakfast donuts, rice and porridge.

Of course, most Chinese people have no connection to what is served in Chinese restaurants abroad - Governor Tso's chicken, beef with dried orange peel, fried meat served in sweet and sour sauce, and fortune cookies. These are the dishes that most foreigners imagine when they think about Chinese cuisine. However, the real shame is that shredded pork with garlic sauce is not served in the U.S.

This lack may be comparable to what an American feels walking into a KFC in China and seeing diners chowing down on porridge with preserved eggs and lean pork rather than crispy fried chicken. Some might say that this is not authentic. But what is authenticity? People in Sichuan, a province famous for its spicy food, didn’t eat pepper at all 100 years ago. Who would have guessed that spicy Sichuan food would be so popular nowadays?

Though the KFC’s performance is declining in the U.S., its business in China is soaring. The main reason is that China always remains open to change and innovation. Maybe one day, rice dumplings with edible wrapping will actually be available at KFC! 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Wu Chengliang, Bianji)

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